As a brave young girl succumbs and her spirited soul loses the battle, the most overwhelming emotion to grip me is profound anguish, unfathomable outrage and a terrible shame – for the very values we take pride in, for the hypocrisy of our people and for a society plagued by prejudice.
It’s all well to play the blame game, pass the buck from the police to the government. There is indeed little doubt that effective security measures need to be implemented all over the country to prevent crimes against women, and that as demanded by the protestors, rapists must be meted out with the harshest punishment to deter others from committing such a heinous act. But would that resolve the core issue? Does the role of the protestors and media end there? Should we be satisfied by these measures, content that we have avenged “Braveheart’s” brutal assault?
The bestiality of the crime has shaken the conscience of the nation, and every Indian without exception is unanimous in condemning the incident. But how many really want to delve into the deeper, more sensitive issue of gender discrimination and are willing to admit that they too are guilty of the gender bias that is so deep rooted in our collective sub-conscious?
What can gender bias have to do with rape? It all begins with belittling the dignity of the woman right from the time of her conception. It all begins with glorifying the man just because he happens to be male. It all begins with elders bestowing their ardent wishes on a newly wedded couple that they be blessed with a son to carry ahead the family name. It all begins with families praying for the birth of a boy as soon as the “good news” is confirmed. It all begins with the flawed assumption that no family can be complete without a male child.
Why are people acting so self righteous while condemning the crime, when we as a collective entity are responsible for fueling the utter disrespect that our society shows towards the feminine gender? How can we expect any change till our women continue to lack self belief, until they continue to resign themselves to play a subservient role, until they too pray fervently to be mothers of sons?
Our country needs a revolution of sorts to get rid of outdated norms and rusty ideas that have no place in a civilised, progressive society. If we really want to ensure greater security for women we need to restore their rightful position as equal, respectable and dignified citizens. This can only happen when we rid ourselves of this age old bias that favours the male and unquestioningly believes in his superiority. The revolution must begin within families – with parents instilling in their sons an intrinsic respect for women instead of giving in to stereotypes that condition boys into thinking that they are naturally superior to girls, stronger than them in every way. It is this erroneous belief that later transforms into either a patronising attitude towards womankind or the desire to dominate and overpower them. In its crudest form it turns into a violent, bestial urge, a means to quell their lust by violating their dignity in the worst possible manner.
Yes security measures need to be in place, more police vigilance and camera surveillance would indeed help bring down crimes against women. But what about the filthy attitudes and the uncouth minds from which acts of such unimaginable brutality are born? What measures are we taking to change those? What are we doing to change the way men think of women, to combat the attitudes that conveniently find fault with her attire or her character, or the assumption that it’s the woman to blame for venturing out after dark?
Bringing the rapists to justice is just the first step to avenging Braveheart’s untimely end. But may she continue to live in our hearts as the spark that spurs our conscience, as a hope that refuses to die. We owe her a social revolution – a promise that will give birth to a new generation of women who can live with their head held high – safe, proud and free.